After the major bummer that was the 3-4 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the seriously intense Satuday round of 8 team match, the Vols -- specifically, the players who earned themselves a spot in the singles and doubles tournaments -- are rested, refreshed, and have come out in the first two rounds stroking like Clarence Carter.
The Volunteers have three representatives in the singles tournament; namely, Rhyne Williams, JP Smith, and Tennys Sandgren. All three advanced to the round of 16. Sandgren was the story of the first round. He scored a major upset in dispatching 13th seeded Reid Carleton from Duke with a convincing 6-3, 6-3 result. And then good fortune smiled upon him when the #2 overall seed Alex Domijan out of UVA -- who was in Sandgren's portion of the bracket -- was majorly upset* in the first round by Sebastian Fanselow out of Pepperdine. Sandgren faces off against Fanselow today in what I consider to be a very winnable match. If he prevails, another exceedingly winnable match awaits him in the round of 8. Tennys definitely got a touch lucky with this draw, so let's see if the sophomore with the phonetically appropriate first name can capitalize and advance to the semifinals.
*And when I say he was majorly upset, I am referring not to his emotional state of mind after the match, but rather to the fact that the result was not of the expected variety. That isn't to say he wasn't pissed.
Rhyne Williams -- who, I should note, is my homeboy and should be your homeboy too -- was the story of the second round. He found himself across the net from UGA's Javier Garrapiz, who he beat 7-5, 7-5 on Saturday in the above-mentioned Saturday team match. It wasn't quite so close this time. Williams earned himself two breadsticks** by making quick work of Garrapiz in a 6-1, 6-1 romping. Tomorrow he faces Guillermo Gomez out of Georgia Tech with an opportunity to earn himself a date in the round of 8 with last year's singles champion, Stanford's Bradley Klahn. Please pretty please don't allow the whole "reigning singles champion" thing to force you into any rash pessimistic opinions. A wise man once said: "when Rhyne is on, Rhyne is the best player in the NCAA." And this was, to be clear, a very very wise man we're talking about here.
**Like bagels, but just not quite as delicious.
Williams and Sandgren could potentially meet in the semifinals.
JP Smith has notched impressive victories in the first two rounds, but he goes up against a buzzsaw tomorrow in USC's Steve Johnson, the #1 overall seed who arguably hasn't lost an NCAA match since the Bush administration. Okay, so that isn't true at all, but he has had an incredible season and is playing lights out. This will be a tough one for Smith to pull off, but I hope he proves me wrong. Here is the singles draw as it remains:
On the doubles side, Smith/Concik is Tennessee's lone entry in the draw, but they are the #1 overall seed. After a straight sets win in the first round, they play tomorrow against Kevin King/Juan Spir out of Georgia Tech.